Banana Grandma died last Thursday night. If you know why she has that moniker, then you have a very brief, but quite clear understanding of my family, our foibles, and the deep running offbeat, sometimes disturbing humor that is chemically bonded to our DNA. She is really the font of that humor, though most people wouldn’t know it. Most people would be surprised to discover that she was the most complicated person I knew.

Her last words were “I feel funny.” While I know that she meant something was physically wrong, that she was literally moments from sliding off her seat, slipping into the unknowable oblivion or grace of death, I take that phrase for its dual meaning. Perhaps in that moment of ultimate clarity she realized that she was our humor’s source, the comedic alpha to the now three living generations that she begat.

Because, I can tell you, most of the tears that we will shed for her will not be tears of sadness or loss, though of course there will be those. Most of our tears will be shed during the entertaining stories of her vibrant living, her stunning statements and proclamations, the retellings of her adventurous mishaps and eccentricities. They will be the tears that accompany joyful nostalgia.

My father suggested playing the Kenny Rogers’ song, “Ruby,” at the funeral. When I laughed, he asked why, noting it was her favorite song.

“I love it,” I said. “I love living in a family where we can seriously suggest a country song about a woman cheating on a disabled American veteran as a possible song for my grandmother’s funeral” And I meant it. Not many people would have understood it. Some may have even been offended. But grandmother would have laughed her flaming Irish ass off.

I then suggested, only half-jokingly, that the family leave the ceremony singing “So Long, Farewell” from the Sound of Music. Again, she would have loved it. Our family would have loved it. But that’s our strange, some might say disturbing sense of humor. And it comes straight from her.

So, if you think you knew her, you were possibly only half right, probably only a quarter right. She was one of the most complicated people I knew. And the funniest without knowing it.


There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple too
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird
Is popping out to say, “Cuckoo”
Regretfully they tell us but firmly they compel us
To say goodbye
To you